As we enter the final few weeks of winter, many of us are looking forward to the sunshine that comes with spring. However if you’re one of the 15% of Australians who suffer from hayfever, you might not be so excited about the prospect of spring. Along with sunshine, spring brings a lot of pollen which triggers allergic responses in those affected.
While antihistamines can provide some much needed relief, there are also some easy things you can do through diet and nutrition to help dampen your allergic response so that you can better manage your allergies and enjoy everything spring has to offer.
The power of quercetin
Quercetin is a natural polyphenol antioxidant found in a variety of fruits and vegetables that acts as a natural antihistamine, and helps our body regulate the immune system.
Histamine, which is responsible for your allergic symptoms, is released from immune cells known as mast cells and basophils. Quercetin may help to reduce the reactivity of the immune system when exposed to allergens, reducing the amount of histamine released by these cells and therefore help to create fewer hay fever symptoms.
Where do we find quercetin?
Onions are the most studied source of quercetin, and other easy to find sources include broccoli, apples, berries and grapes!
All polyphenols can help
Along with quercetin, all of the antioxidants compounds which create the various colours we see in our plant food can help regulate your allergic response- and these are collectively known as polyphenols. Their anti-inflammatory actions are well known, and they may work in a similar way to quercetin.
Eat a plant-based rainbow-coloured diet
Eating a range of coloured plant foods in your diet will help to increase the amount of polyphenols you’re getting through your diet. So next time you’re doing your groceries, make sure you’ve got some fruit and veg that are red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple (and especially the ones high in quercetin).
Finally, take care of your gut microbiome
Eating this way will also increase foods that help feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, because gut microbes also like the dietary fibre and polyphenol compounds found in plant-foods!
Recent research is demonstrating how our gut microbiome plays an incredibly important role in regulating our immune system, and an unhealthy community of gut bacteria may play a part in the development of allergic diseases such as allergies.
Optimising your gut microbiome through a plant-based diet or prebiotic and probiotic supplementation may also help to regulate your immune system in a similar way to quercetin and polyphenols.
It’s easier to take a proactive approach, than waiting to start after the symptoms of hayfever have taken over your life. This also gives your immune system time to work with the extra polyphenols and quercetin, and reduce its reactivity. Getting started a few weeks before allergy season begins is always the best approach.